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Race Dispatches
From Race Veteran Tracy Edwards
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The Volvo Ocean Race 2001-2002
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Leg 1: Southampton, England, to Cape Town, South Africa

Dispatch 1: Slogging to the Equator | Dispatch Archive
October 9, 2001

[Note: Nationalgeographic.com does not research or copyedit field dispatches.]

As I watched the Volvo Ocean Yachts leap across the start line in the Solent I had mixed feelings. Part of me was glad to be a spectator and part of me wanted to be going with them. The start is always so exciting for the crews, after years of designing and building the boats, training the teams, testing the sails, suddenly it all comes together and nothing matters except for the stretch of ocean in front of you. The next time you see land it will be 7,000 nautical miles away, and it will be Table Mountain, in Cape Town, South Africa.

There was a perfect breeze as the gun went and all 8 boats put up their spinnakers and flew down the solent. At first it seemed as if there was nothing between them and then Grant Dalton on Amer Sport pulled away from the rest of the fleet as the girls on Amer Sport Too lost their spinnaker and battled to put a new one up. They did so in record time and headed out, not too far behind the rest of the fleet.

The start and the first 24 hours are crucial to strategy and the motivation of the teams. The slog down to the equator is the opportunity to put yourself in the best possible place for crossing the doldrums. If you get it right you can slide through the area of no wind in a couple of days, get it wrong and you could take a lot longer while the other boats head into the South Atlantic. As the boats slow down, and the back markers catch they will be watching to see who gets through first. There is everything to play for at this stage.

For the skippers it is more difficult to motivate and push your crew when there is no wind. Getting it right is everything.

—Tracy Edwards

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